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Inorganic nanotubes with permanent wall polarization as dual photo-reactors for wastewater treatment with simultaneous fuel production
Environmental Science: Nano  (IF8.131),  Pub Date : 2021-07-19, DOI: 10.1039/d1en00405k
Sabyasachi Patra, Delphine Schaming, Pierre Picot, Marie-Claire Pignié, Jean-Blaise Brubach, Lorette Sicard, Sophie Le Caër, Antoine Thill

Photocatalytic production of fuels, even in small quantities, from the mineralization of hazardous pollutants, is a promising and renewable way of recycling wastewater. In the present work, the potential of methyl functionalized inorganic aluminosilicate nanotubes (methyl imogolite/Imo-CH3) as photocatalytic nanoreactors for this application is demonstrated. Using the phototoxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon dibenzo(a,h)anthracene (DBAN) as a model pollutant, we show that DBAN molecules can be efficiently trapped inside Imo-CH3 nanotubes in an aqueous medium to undergo subsequent oxidative photo-degradation under UV light. The kinetics of this photo-degradation were shown to depend strongly on both the initial DBAN concentration in the nanotubes and the presence/absence of dissolved dioxygen. The photo-degradation process followed a complex mechanistic pathway, consisting of combined photo-oxidation and photo-cycloaddition reactions, where detection of carbon dioxide (CO2) as a photo-oxidation product confirmed the mineralization of encapsulated DBAN. CO and CH4 molecules were also formed, however these could arise from the further photo-reduction of CO2 on the external surface of the nanotubes. Moreover, dihydrogen (H2) was produced upon UV illumination under anaerobic conditions due to water reduction reactions on the external surfaces of Imo-CH3 nanotubes. The possible mechanistic pathways of these processes are proposed, and the dual capability of Imo-CH3 nanotubes for simultaneous pollutant degradation and H2 production is then demonstrated – a rare feat for a single photocatalyst material.